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  1. Matthew Weiner | A.M. Homes | The New York Public Library

    May 20, 2015

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    Matthew Weiner, creator, executive producer, writer, and director of the critically acclaimed drama Mad Men, is one of the television industry’s most esteemed showrunners. Weiner spent nearly a third of his life nurturing and bringing Mad Men to life – a show that has been touted as “a television drama with all the ingredients of the great American novel” (Telegraph). Just days after the series finale, Weiner will be joined by novelist A.M. Homes in a reflection on the characters and themes in Mad Men in his first public discussion of the show from beginning to end. 

    MATTHEW WEINER serves as creator, Executive Producer, writer and director on the critically acclaimed drama Mad Men, which has become one of television’s most honored shows. In 2011, it joined an elite group when it became only the fourth drama to be awarded four consecutive Emmy® Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, and has received countless other nods, including three Golden Globe® Awards for Best Television Drama Series; a Peabody Award; three Producers Guild Awards; four Writers Guild Awards; two BAFTA Awards; five Television Critics Association Awards, including Program of the Year; and being named seven years running to AFI’s Top 10 Outstanding Television Programs. Weiner has been awarded for outstanding writing, efforts behind the camera, and his extraordinary passion, leadership, independence and vision in the process of creating television programming. In addition to his television credits, Weiner wrote and directed the feature film, Are You Here, and served as an Executive Producer and writer on The Sopranos, and as writer on various television comedy series including The Naked Truth, Becker, and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Weiner currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, architect Linda Brettler, and their four sons.

    A.M. HOMES is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the best selling memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter along with a travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist’s book Appendix A. She has also created original television pilots for HBO, FX and CBS and was a writer/producer of the Showtime series The L Word. Additionally, Homes wrote the adaptation of her first novel JACK, for Showtime. Director Rose Troche’s 2003 adaptation of The Safety of Objects marks the screen debut of Kristen Stewart. Other Homes novels currently in development include, In A Country of Mothers, Music For Torching and This Book Will Save Your Life. A.M. Homes has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award, and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. In addition she has been active on the Boards of Directors of Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center In Provincetown, The Writers Room, and PEN-where she chairs both the membership committee and the Writers Fund. Additionally she serves on the Presidents Council for Poets and Writers. A.M. Homes was born in Washington D.C., she now lives in New York City and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton.

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  2. Why the Mad Men are Mad at Us | IA Summit Library

    Our world is changing. Advertising agencies blew the web opportunity the first time around, but they’re not going to let this happen again. They’re smart. They understand communication. They can run persuasive rings around BJ Fogg. And they’ve been doing user research since before Jakob Nielsen was born.

    If you’re considering a job as an IA or UX professional at a traditional ad agency, you don’t want to miss this session.

    Ad agencies generally stayed out of the blast range when the dot.bomb went off. And they’ve since waited patiently. Happily, most ad folks still haven’t got a clue as to what IAs do. But when they finally do “get it,” we are either going to learn to get along with them or find ourselves relegated to an unenviable group of semi-human subcontractors — a status otherwise reserved for printers, layouters, and the gopher who delivers lunch each day.

    The last couple of years, IAs have learned to appreciate business thinkers like Philip Kottler and Peter Drucker. Now it’s time to get acquainted with the ad industry’s pioneers: Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Rosser Reeves, Bill Bernbach, and David Ogilvy.

    This presentation will take a closer look at what ad agencies consider “good” advertising, how they interpret “concept,” and why our notion of “proof of concept” is completely nonsensical in the world of advertising. I’ll show you some successful campaigns and some award-winning campaigns — these are not necessarily the same thing — and explain out why these are admired or condemned by so-called “creatives” at ad agencies.

    Together, we’ll explore why advertising creatives despise web types in general and usability folks in particular. You’ll find out why stuff that “works” on screen doesn’t work in print ads — and vice versa. And I’ll dispel some of the popular myths about advertising, such as “all advertising is good advertising.”

    Why the Mad Men are Mad at Us [ 41:17 ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

    Brought to you by

    The 2014 IA Summit podcasts were recorded and produced by the fantastic team at UIE. UIE is a research and training company that brings you the latest thinking from the top experts in the world of User Experience Design. UIE's virtual seminars allow you to get your hands on that information, to absorb as much as you can, on your schedule. Of course, you can keep up with all the shenanigans by signing up for UIE's free newsletter, UIEtips.


    Eric Reiss: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for getting up at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. I realized that this is what we call in the industry the death slot because you've been karaoke-ing until four in the morning. I figured I'd bribe you with Bloody Mary's. Some of you have Bloody Mary's. Very good. We do what we can.

    Bribery is how advertising works, completely disreputable profession. How many of you watch "Mad Men" on TV? Quite a few of you. For those of you who don't, both of you, [laughs] you can be an ad man, which means you work for an advertising agency, but most of the advertising agencies were centered on and around Madison Avenue in New York.

    That's where Mad Men come from. It's not necessarily because they're angry, but I was quite pleased that I got this picture of Don Draper because he looked very very upset.

    I want to introduce you to Jacques Séguéla, who you probably never heard of. He was Francois Mitterrand's Director of Communications when Francois Mitterrand was President of France. Séguéla is credited with having said, "Don't tell my mother I work in advertising. She thinks I play the piano in a whore house." [laughter] I mean that's where advertising sits in the grand scheme of things.

    I've won a lot of awards. I've been nominated for a Cleo. I've been in this business for a long time. And I'm pretty good at what I do. But what really gives me the authority to speak about advertising is that I actually have played piano in a whore house. [laughter] I think I'm the only person in advertising who's a…

    Big Al mother's head had a whore house above a flea market in St. Louis. Above his…never mind. It was a very depressing experience. If any one of you are contemplating a career change, let me tell you playing piano in a whore house on a Saturday afternoons is not a good thing.

    This is nap time. There are no customers. I'm the only person who has ever worked at a whore house and left a virgin. [laughter] That's how bad it was. What can I say? But it gives me a unique insight into advertising, somehow. You work that out.

    Advertise means to notify, to call public attention, especially in order to sell. This is a notice from ancient Thebes, about 1300 BC. "For the return of my slave to the shop of Hapu the weaver, a whole gold coin is offered."

    This is communication. Hapu the weaver was not content with just trying to advertise that he wanted his slave back. Instead, "The shop of Hapu the weaver, where the best cloth is woven to your desires." It's the earliest ad I could find. Hapu just couldn't resist saying, "Hey, I'm really good at what I do." That's advertising.

    Our problem in the UX community — how many of you actually have worked at advertising agencies? Surprising number. OK, good. Then I hope you'll agree with this. Maybe this is just my own perspective, but I think it's true, and if you think I'm full of shit, just call out or have another bloody Mary or go to see Jon Kolko. Whatever.

    The problem I've experienced is that if we do not understand how the Don Drapers of the world think, we can't really expect them to understand how we think. There is a tremendous schism between what we do in UX and IA and what people in advertising do. That's what I wanted to introduce you to today, so that you'll understand why the advertising industry consistently fucks up and why we have so much trouble trying to communicate our message.

    There are three good ways to ensure that we never get invited back to that table. The first is — and these are real bullets, by the way. These are Remington self-loaders. Insisting that we invented user research, misunderstanding the concept of "concept," and finally, humiliating established art directors. That's about the worst thing you can possibly do.

    Let's take a look at this brief history of advertising. We all know that Jakob Nielsen invented user testing. Jakob. The truth is that… [laughter] Right. This is an advertisement, written by a fellow by the name of John Caples back in 1925. As you can see, it's a coupon ad. There's rather a lot of copy text. "They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play…"

    This advertisement taught the United States how to play the piano. In the days before we had Netflix and whatever, people had to make their own entertainment. They learned to sing and they learned to play the piano and other things.

    John Caples' ad ran for almost 50 years with incredible success. They changed the visuals, they updated it and so on. But the point is, this is probably one of the most effective coupon ads in the history of advertising.

    "Tested Advertising Methods," now in it's fifth edition. It has been in print since 1932. This is the man that invented A/B testing. Do not go into an advertising agency and start to lecture them on testing. We know this. We know this. Except nothing is true about what works best in UX, until it has been scientifically tested. 1932. Let's move on. OK, because we understand research.

    This ad was written by Claude Hopkins in 1908. Now, Claude Hopkins was approached by the Van Camp's company. The Van Camp's got their start during the Civil War in the United States in the 1860s. They could put things in tins and they wouldn't spoil. This was very good, because you could give the tins to the troops and they could open them with bayonets — this is before can openers, by the way — and they got a hearty meal.

    Pork and beans, which became the signature product for Van Camp's, is actually very difficult to make. What Hopkins did was, well, he went down to the diners, he went down to the docks. He talked to the people who ate pork and beans and he talked to the people who made pork and beans to try and find out why this was good.

    Try our rivals, too. He's not scared. He's not scared of this at all. He spent a lot of time talking to these people. He wrote two books, "My Life in Advertising," and "Scientific Advertising." Now, listen to this. "Talk to the people who are going to buy your product, this is the first step in any successful campaign." 1930.

    How many of you are still fighting with your employers or your clients to get them to do years of research? Thank you. Well, if you go into an advertising agency, don't start talking about this, because the advertising people understand this.

    We've got BJ Fogg, he talks about question, and Kristina Halvorson, she has taught us about content.

    David Ogilvy wrote this ad in 1960 to introduce the Rolls-Royce to North America. "At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock." To which the engineers at Rolls-Royce said, "We've got to do something about that damn clock."

    It's a long ad. There is a lot of content on that page and yet, it introduced a brand to the United States which today is an icon for classy cars.

    He wrote two books, Mr. Ogilvy. The first was the "Confessions of an Advertising Man." This was the first time that anyone actually started to talk about advertising in public, because we all play pianos in whorehouses.

    This book, "Ogilvy on Advertising," if you have not read it, order it today and read it. Because it will keep you out of a lot of very eggy situations when you deal with advertising people. It's a very easy, readable book and I beg you to take this seriously, because this man knew what it was about.

    Listen to this. "What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form." Content strategy? Come on, darlings. Old wine in new bottles. Let's meet a couple of other people. This is Rosser Reeves, he talks about the USP. How many of you have been shown a list of USPs by your clients? Quite a few. Your clients are assholes.

    Do you know what USP stands for? Unique selling proposition. Unique means one. It's not a fucking feature list. How many of you remember the Creative Zen? None of you. The Creative Zen came out around 1999. It was a five-gigabyte MP3 player with a really good algorithm. You remember.

    Audience Member: It was a brick.

    Eric: It wasn't so much a brick, Michael. Excuse me?

    [audience member speaks]

    Eric: Yeah, that's right. It was round and it was purple and whatever, and they advertised it as, "We are a five-gigabit MP3 player." In a whole room of geeks, virtually none of us remember it.

    How many of you know what an iPod is? Oh, amazing. The iPod understood the concept of the USP. Thousands of songs in your pocket. That's a USP. Rosser Reeves came up with this. Does anyone know what the tag line is for M and Ms?

    Audience Members: [together] Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

    Eric: Amazing. Amazing. After 60 years, half of this room remembers what Rosser Reeves wrote. Very good.

    This is Leo Burnett. He started an agency in Chicago. He talked about finding the drama. He invented the Marlboro Man — who died of lung cancer, by the way. He also invented the Jolly Green Giant and he invented Tony the Tiger. We'll get back to Leo. He's an important figure.

    Bill Bernbach, one of the few Jews in an otherwise WASP-dominated industry, to all people of color, women, this is a very closed arena. I apologize for that. That's just the way it is, and let's try and change that. If you say, "Why are there no blacks or Asians or whatever?" it's because these people, these groups, have not necessarily been able to get into this industry.

    I think that is absolutely despicable. 30 years after the Equal Rights Amendment, we still have problems getting women into advertising and getting people of color and so on. This is not good.

    Bill Bernbach started to change that. How many of you know DDB? Have you heard..? Well, that's Doyle Dane Bernbach. Meet Mr. Bernbach. He was the one who came up with "we try harder." He also did the Volkswagen campaign. Actually, he was smart enough to hire this woman, Phyllis Robinson, to walk the Volkswagen campaign. Not only did they start hiring Jews, they started hiring women. That was kind of interesting. DDB, God bless you. Thank you for that. You started to change things.

    I want to introduce you to the Mattel See and Say. How many of you are familiar with this? Oh, good. How many of you are not familiar with this? Why? Mike Atherton, what kind of a cave do you live in that you've never seen a See and Say?

    Mike Atherton: I was raised by wolves.

    Eric: He was raised by wolves. [laughter]

    Eric: I believe that you know this man brought me bear meat from Helsinki. [laughs]

    Well, as a public service, not for you lot, but only for Mike Atherton, I actually have a See and Say. [laughter and applause]

    This is the most well-traveled See and Say in the world. I bought it on eBay. It was made in China. Apparently it's crossed the Pacific. It ended up in Iowa, and then they sent it to my home in Denmark, and it's been across the Atlantic several times now. It's more traveled than most people in Davenport. [laughs]

    Now, see, Mike, let me show you how this works. See, we have different animals here, OK? Pick an animal.

    Mike: I think maybe a coyote.

    Eric: A coyote. Oh, excellent. Excellent. A very good choice. We point the thing at the coyote, and then pull that string. [sound of string being pulled] It is quite wonderful, and the duck goes and the dog goes. Oh, the consultant goes, "It depends." [laughter]

    This is the See and Say. In advertising, we consider the See and Say absolutely to be the lowest form of advertising. Absolutely useless. Let me explain why. I spent all night working on this. It's the first animated GIF I've ever done. You're saying, "What was that about?" That was the problem in a nutshell. See, we'll do it again. See?

    That is a See and Say. We'll do it again. [laughter] I'm quite proud of that.


    Thank you. Thank you. In the communications industry, we talk about something called AIDA. That's the model — awareness, interest, desire, and action.

    When you have 1.7 seconds and you're trying to get people to read your advertisement while they're leafing through a magazine, you need to catch their attention. Then you have to make it interesting in some way. At one point, you want them to actually desire your product and actually go to the store or fill out the coupon or call the toll-free number, whatever course of action you've given them.

    Now, the thing is, there's a line that runs through this, and this is where the advertising agencies and those of us in interactive media go in different directions, because the traditional art directors think that if they're going to do a website, they have to start with awareness. The point is, nobody goes into a website or downloads an app by accident. "Well, I wanted to see what the weather was going to be like in San Diego, but OK, I'll buy a new suitcase. All right." It doesn't work that way.

    This is a critical divide, that the advertising industry does not understand, and this is where we start to fight with the art directors. It's sad, but this is what we do.

    Now, back to Leo Burnett. This is absolutely interesting. The secret of all effective originality in advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures but of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships. That is good advertising, and that does not mean a See and Say.

    All you IAs, what would you label this picture?

    Audience Member: Landscape.

    Eric: What?

    Audience Member: Landscape.

    Eric: Right. What kind of a landscape?

    Audience Member: Winter.

    Eric: Winter landscape. Good. This is what we do. A link is a promise. When you click on winter landscape you expect to come to a page that will deal with a winter landscape. Do we agree on this?

    Would this catch anybody's attention of they're leafing through a magazine? No, so instead we'll do something else. Scene of the crime. No blood, no footprints, this is fascinating. We have got to…what do they mean by "Scene of the crime?"

    This is what we do in advertising, but if you use "Scene of the crime" as a link, it's not going to work. The things that make us good online are exactly the things that make us shit offline. The advertising people think that what makes them brilliant offline also apply online and it doesn't work. That is the problem. Here are some things that are not See and Says.

    HSBC, the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation has had the longest running and most successful advertising campaign in the history of financial advertising.

    This is beautiful. In the future, there will be no difference between waste in energy and they've got banana peels as windmills. This is lovely. Very clever. A fish with a bar code. In the future, transport networks will think for themselves.

    In terms of a See and Say, look at this, wonderful. Style, soldier, survivor. That's a see and say, but they've given it a twist. Only by understanding what people value can we better meet their needs. This is good advertising. This is lovely, [foreign language] . "There are better car rental agency than sixth." This is on a jet-way at an airport, and so Pinocchio's nose grows as the thing expands. Lovely, lovely way.

    What makes the See and Say the lowest for advertising, basically these things rely on eye-catching irrelevancies. [background noise] See, there was absolutely no point to bring a spitfire into this, but this is the kind of thing that bad advertisers do. Are you the picture of health?

    This is HP, you would think that a company like HP knew better, but apparently not. Their advertising sucks. I'm sorry. We're here in San Diego, but I'm not going to pull any punches. They have some of the shittiest advertising out there.

    Pop quiz, Australia, ahead by leaps and bounds. What do you think is in the visual? Kanga-fucking-roos, absolutely. [laughter] This is, without question, one of the most talent-less ads ever produced. Happily, this is only for the invest in Australia company.

    The tourists board does stuff. They like…"Hey, we've shampooed the camels and we've laid on a great sunset, so where the hell are you?" You know, "Where the bloody hell are you?" They do good ads. This is crap. You can also force a See and Say. This is quite odd. This is like a Coke machine. A cold drink would be nice, but it would be great if I could find a product to help me develop more profitable customer relationships. [laughter]

    I didn't Photoshop this crap. Don't be a victim. This is Toshiba, you think they'd know better. They're talking about the cost of toner, and what's happened is this photo copier has come and snatched her purse. Words cannot describe.

    "This is quite a writing for global markets, bring the words of the world to your fingertips." She has a map, two desks, and she's apparently typing on both of them at the same time. Bloody hell. Illustrations, OK. This is from the UPA Conference.

    The UPA sometimes does it right, usually they do it wrong. Patterns, blueprints for usability, it's on the edge. This is a Time magazine from a couple of years ago during the first presidential election for Obama. "The race is on."

    This is a good headline, but if they had said, "Darling, you need a bloody Mary very, very much. Are you OK? You…OK, good." Who needs a bloody Mary by the way at this point? Everyone. All right. They're there. They're there. They're there.

    The bar is open. You know, just get up and get them. You know, ignore me. I'm just going to waffle on until…if they had said, "The race to the White House is on" it probably would have been too close. OK, but this is acceptable.

    You can also use it for logos. For example, wines. If we take something like Chateau Margaux, what is on the label? A picture of the chateau. If we take Frog's Leap, what is on the label of Frog's Leap? Come on, we're in California.

    A leaping frog. If I say, "There's a wine called, Red Truck," what do you think is on the label? A red truck. OK, that's fine. These are logos. Sex sells. Now, all of you women who think that advertising is sexist, I want to introduce you to Helen Resor, because she's the fault.

    She married Stanley Resor, who bought an agency called, "J Walter Thompson" in 1916," and in 1917, she started selling woodbury soap, "A skin you love to touch." Some of the sexiest ads ever done at the time of the first world war.

    It's Helen's fault that we have sex in advertising, so don't blame it on the men. H&M. My god, they sell sex like nobody's business. Just, you know, to try and even the playing field, we also have men in their pictures. This one I rather like.

    [laughter] This company sells faux fur bags, and if you buy their bag they contribute part of their revenue to protection of animals and so on. The best part of this ad is if you buy that particular purse, you can get a bikini wax. [laughter]

    In the advertising industry, we talk about babies, boobs, and beagles. That's what sells. "We double dog dare you," it has absolutely nothing to do with the ad itself. We just have a cute kid, and so he's the eye-catching irrelevancy, but there are better ways to do it.

    This is Michelin. This is slightly better. Michelin, "Because so much is riding on your tires." The next one is absolutely bloody brilliant.

    "Children of parents who smoke go to heaven earlier." That's a good ad. They got the kid in there, they're getting the attention, and they're selling the message. This is the American Red Cross for god sakes. [laughter]

    "Oh man, she wants my bodily fluids? She can have them." This is not Photoshop, these are real ads. Sex sells. The American Red Cross, they want you to donate blood. Shower gel. "What's in your martini?" "Hey, I worked in a whore house, I know." Then of course we have the beagles. "Finding the right job can be rough."

    What's the point of this dog? The Molson people, they combine sex and dogs. [laughter]

    "Hundreds of thousands of woman pre-programmed for your convenience." This is rather nice. [laughter] This is from the Calgary zoo. "Have you heard the one about the dyslexic man who walked into a bra?" [laughter]

    We have pseudo-creativity. I've never understood this one for Intuit, "What's your passion?" It's a cute picture, but it makes no sense. This one I can't even read, and this has been hanging in the Copenhagen Airport for about a year.

    I have no bloody clue what this is about. We have a woman who has clearly never held a cello in her life. We have a stoplight and hidden insights with high performance analytics. I do not get it. If any of you know what this is about, send me a mail because I'm really curious, because this is a spot that costs like hundreds of thousands of dollars and I don't get the ad. I see this twice a week when I go the airport.

    [Female Participant talking weakly in the background]


    You probably have a point. [laughter] I think it's such a bad ad that I'm presenting it to you lot, so that you can make fun of this and Tweet about it all day and say, "Eric had all these really shitty ads that he showed us."

    You're probably right. I mean, I have been in sales pitches where I know I've sold crap, but I had a boss that said, "This is the campaign. This is what we're doing." This is also why I left advertising and started my own agency.

    "Tell the story," that's what Leo Burnett talked about. Find the drama. How are we doing? We've got 15 minutes. This, I think is a brilliant ad for the BBC. "Terrorist, hero, victim? Demand a broader view." Absolutely lovely ad.

    This one from the streets of New York. "Gaffer tap, gasoline, and a pussycat. Whatever you can imagine, we've seen worse." This is for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Same concept used by Penn & Teller, "Two words, wood-chipper." [laughs] Reinventing the yes-man. This man does not look like a yes-man. Again, a standard phrase.

    A fairly stocked picture and yet put together in a new way that creates drama. That's good advertising. It's not the See and Say. Apogee, I don't know how many of you know they are a Hongkong based usability agency. Wonderful people.

    They do some of absolutely the best work in their part of the world, but advertising…"Bridging the gap between your users and your products. Your users," and a bridge, "And your products." [laughter] Are we all on the same page?

    This is the way good information architects do ads. [laughter] All right? The metadata is all in place. You know, it's all working.

    Apparently, somebody talked to the people at Apogee and said, "Well, you know, you could actually do these a little better," so they hired an advertising agency and they came up with…I think this is one of the most brilliant ads I've seen in a long time because usable interfaces live forever.

    They are talking about Asia. We know that the abacus is still in use. I've seen people who can do things on an abacus faster than I can do it on a calculator. Brilliant ad. "Simple designs promote use." Lovely.

    At which point, apparently Apogee decided, "We don't need no sneaking advertising agency," and so we're "Lighting the path for your users." It's like "Whoa, well, where did this come from?" That's sad, because they were on the right track, but they didn't understand what the advertising industry or the creatives were bringing to the table. The other agencies don't always get it right either.

    This is an advertisement that was done by my former agency to advertise sort of a desktop firewall. The idea was that people were taking their laptops, they were going out on vacation, logging into all types of networks, coming back with viruses.

    When they came in behind the firewall and tapped in back at the office, all kinds of bad things were being spread. The idea of this particular software product was to keep the vira and other things concentrated within the individual laptop and not let them go out into the network.

    My old agency did this. It only takes one bad laptop to bring down your entire network and they've built this house of cards. They did AB testing. I was actually the competing agency at that point and I came up with something that was rather more low brow.

    "Jimmy had a fantastic vacation, but his laptop picked up a communicable disease," and that sold 10 times as much product as the first one. Sometimes, you can be too creative for your own good. Rosser Reeves, Mr. USP says, "Yeah, you want fine writing or you want your fucking sales to go up?" That's really what it's about. Lets talk about concept. In advertising, the concept is the big idea. It's look and feel. This is from Land Rover.

    [laughs] You've got this mountain goat on top of the car, which I think is quite lovely. In our world, this is the kind of stuff we have, "Are you not sure what your website should look like?" This is how we're selling concept? The advertisers think that concept is look and feel, and we know that concept, at least in terms of interactive media, is a question of function.

    This is a very difficult thing to communicate to the traditional advertising community, precisely because of AIDA, because of this awareness interest desire action. There's only one proof of concept and that's sales in advertising.

    This is an advertisement for a company that sells cement factories, and believe it or not, I have sold cement factories. We needed to create an ad that would get people to sign up for service agreements, so this is what we came up to.

    Sometimes a simple upgrade is all you need. This sold five million dollars worth of product within the first two weeks and there is not a cement factory in the picture. Let me explain how art directors think. We had a client that sold something called, "OSS." What the hell did "OSS" stand for?

    It had to do with all these software services…I can't remember what it was. It was software that was designed for the telcos so that they could do roaming charges correctly, hand-offs, and all this stuff. What the hell did OSS mean? Anyway, the problem was it was a really quirky piece of software. I mean, it wasn't something shrink wrapped.

    It was something that you really had to work on and customize because every telco was a little different. Deutsche Telecom was not the same as British Telecom, which wasn't the same as Vodafone, which wasn't the same as AT&T, and so on and so forth, so there was a lot of tweaking to be done.

    You couldn't just open this operational support systems. Operational support systems, that was it. Yeah, OSS. Operational support systems, so that's the software. The company color was blue. Now we will be the art directors here.

    Oh, but that's boring, so we'll change it to green. And they have this swoosh that we have to live with. That's rather bright, that white. We'll tone that down a little bit. Thank you. There's something slightly yin and yang about this, isn't it?

    We have this operational support systems software. We clearly want to appeal to the business community. [laughter] So, what would be the opposite if we're going to go the yin and yang route? Shit, I don't know. Oh, tattoos. We'll do tattoos. "Off the shelf OSS solutions are great if you have off the shelf customers." That was the campaign, it sold a lot of product. That's kind of the creative process and it's very different from what we do in our particular arena.

    We could roll this out to brochures and this is the kind of website shit that…never in my career has anyone ever said, "Oh please, can't we have more pdfs?" [laughter] This is the kind of stuff people do in mock up and it's a shame.

    I want to kill a myth. I brought the light to the picture. "All advertising is good advertising." "Well, that's what they say," and it's not. Let me tell you a story. There was a Milwaukee brewer, Schlitz. They found out that people who could actually remember their advertising bought less beer from them. I'm not kidding.

    See, Schlitz used to have an ad, they had these macho men often in sailing or skiing or something like that, but they had a great tagline, "If you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer." It was brilliant. In terms of beer advertising, this is a good tagline.

    Old Milwaukee, the beer that made Milwaukee famous, also a great tagline. Well, at one point, this was in 1972, by 1976, Schlitz was the second largest brewer in the United States after Anheuser-Busch. That's rather impressive.

    Well, somebody got tired of this and so in 1982, "Behind every Schlitz is a man who knows his beer." You know what their advertising looked like in 1984? This. They were out of business. Bad advertising hurts. In summary, I want to introduce you to Bernice Fitz-Gibbon. She worked primarily in the retail industry. She worked for Gimbells, Macy's, Wanamakers, a lot of big department stores.

    She wrote a book in 1967, which is really very interesting if you're into this kind of thing. I'm going to get back to Bernice in a minute, but I want to talk about titles. Back in 1995, we had webmasters. I mean, these were basically long gray pages.

    There wasn't a lot on there, but by 1998, we had a webmaster, we had a visual designer, we had a copywriter. Does this look familiar? Good. 2000, we had a developer, web designer, information architect, and a copywriter, maybe.

    Where are we today in 2014? [background conversations] I'm the token baby boomer. I will wait while you take your picture. Do you need my Twitter handle? Yes, it's ELReiss. It's advertising, guys. I think this is a problem because all these people expect to be creative and they're not.

    There's a too many cooks syndrome going on, and I don't think that with these great teams where everyone is expected to love each other and go on group hugs and whatever that we're actually producing better product. This is where I get back to Bernice Fitz-Gibbon. She says, "Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth."

    I think that we really need to step back and be very very careful about where we're going because I see a lot of our disciplines being split up into little bitty pieces. Let me tell you, I think a cracker is worth more than a handful of crumbs.

    We have to be very careful about what we're doing. David Oglivy said something that I think is wonderful, "In all the parks in all the cities you won't find statues of committees."

    Thank you for listening. [applause]

    We have 30 seconds to take questions. No question? OK, lets go and drink some more. Thank you very much for coming. Thank you. [applause]

    —Huffduffed by tlafleur

  3. From Paths to Sandboxes | IA Summit Library

    Designers are trained to guide users toward predetermined outcomes, but is there a better use of this persuasive psychology? What happens if we focus less on influencing desired behaviors and focus more on designing ‘sandboxes’: open-ended, generative systems? And how might we go about designing these spaces? It’s still “psychology applied to design”, but in a much more challenging and rewarding way!

    In this talk, I’ll share the journey I’ve been on, from trying to shape and influence a user’s path, to creating these sandbox environments. You’ll learn why systems such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Minecraft are so maddeningly addictive, and what principles we can use to create similar experiences. We’ll look at education and the work of Maria Montessori, who wrote extensively about how to create learning environments that encourage exploration and discovery. And we’ll look at game design, considering all the varieties of games, especially those carefully designed to encourage play — a marked contrast with progression games designed to move you through a series of ever-increasing challenges, each converging upon the same solution. Finally, we’ll look at web applications, and I’ll share how this thinking might influence your work, from how you respond to new feature requests to how you design for behavior change in a more mature way.

    From Paths to Sandboxes [ 43:57 ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

    Brought to you by

    The 2014 IA Summit podcasts were recorded and produced by the fantastic team at UIE. UIE is a research and training company that brings you the latest thinking from the top experts in the world of User Experience Design. UIE's virtual seminars allow you to get your hands on that information, to absorb as much as you can, on your schedule. Of course, you can keep up with all the shenanigans by signing up for UIE's free newsletter, UIEtips.


    Stephen Anderson: Thank you all for making it out this morning. Quick question, how many of you were of the karaoke tribe last night?

    Raise your hand. How many of you were of the game night tribe? Raise your hand. Good. I'm more of the game night tribe, sorry. A little background on what I'm going to be talking about. For the past several years, I've been very interested in psychology and design.

    Specifically, how can we use psychology to design more fun, engaging, and effective interactions and this led to a book that I published with new writers a few yeas ago called "Seductive Interaction Design." It also led to a toolkit I created called "The Mental Notes Card Deck."

    Again, this theme of psychology and how can we apply it to our work to the designs we do. The talk I'm going to give today is really where that thinking has led me, where I'm at this. I'm thrilled, because this is for the first time in my career I feel like I really have a strong viewpoint or a strong perspective on a lot of the daily work I'm doing…

    With that, let me start. Last fall, I was flying into Waterloo, Canada for a conference there. As I flew in, I looked out the window. Actually, I took a photo looking out the window, and my first thought was, "Wow. Look at the vibrant colors here. This is just incredible. What a lovely place I'm about to visit." My second thought was, "Wow. This looks like Settlers of Catan."


    Stephen: I'm a little obsessed with games, particularly board games lately.

    If you'll indulge for a few minutes, I'd like to share three games that I've been playing a lot of lately, probably, more than a healthy individual should. This first game I'm embarrassed to admit to that I've been playing, but you may have heard of it. It's a game called "Candy Crush."


    Stephen: How many of you have played Candy Crush? Those of you who have not played Candy Crush, do not start.


    Stephen: It's like they perfected the Skinner box and slot machine Las Vegas mechanics, and you will get addicted. I won't tell you what level I got up to before I quit cold turkey, but I can say, I'm 47 days without Candy Crush.


    Stephen: Can we have a round of applause, please?

    [applause and cheering]

    Stephen: For those of you who don't know Candy Crush, it's almost like "Bejeweled" on steroids with lots of leveling up and novelties thrown in and things like that.

    The other game which I'm not going to go into very much for this talk or at all is a board game called "Seven Wonders."

    Basically, you play this game in 18 rounds, and you try to create the most advanced civilization by the end of 18 rounds. All I'm going to say is I love this game, fantastic game. If you are a product owner, product manager, product strategist, anyone making leadership decisions for a company, this is required playing. It'll be better than any book you can buy on the subject. All right?

    Finally, the other game I've played a lot of, especially with my boys, is Minecraft. Another show of hands — how many of you have played Minecraft, or know about it? OK — homework assignment. You all have to go out and play Minecraft. I don't care if it's iPad, PC, whatever — incredible game.

    Minecraft's a little bit hard to describe to folks. In fact, a lot of people look at it and they scratch their heads, like, "What's the point of the game?" It's almost like you've been thrown into a virtual box of Lego bricks, and you can build and make stuff.

    There's none of the usual trappings that you get with a game. There's no leveling up or badges or points or assignments. You're in this world where you can create and play and discover. There's a little bit of tension thrown in where you start off during the day building stuff, but then, night comes and that's when things like zombies start approaching.

    If you didn't do stuff in the afternoon to protect yourself or bury yourself in a hole, then, you might be in a little bit of trouble. But you can play it in survival mode like that or you can play it in creative mode. And people create some of the most amazing things. Again, this is with little pixel squares inside this game. Here's the "Up" house as an example.

    I'm going to hold these three games up as exemplars of different types of games that we can learn from — we can learn patterns from. This is not a talk about games, but this is a good reference point or exemplar for what I am going to talk about. I'm going to remove Seven Wonders for the purpose of this talk, but if you want to ask me about that later on, I would love to talk about that.

    Candy Crush I'm going to hold up as an example of a path, and Minecraft I'm going to hold up as an example of a sandbox. That's what I'd like to talk about for the first half of this talk, is a path and a sandbox, and what are the differences between those two things?

    Paths — the word very explicitly comes from some of the research about how to motivate people and how to design for behavior change. There's this idea that we have to direct the writer. That's our conscious thought. But the writers…it's like riding an elephant. The elephant's going to do what the elephant wants to do, which is our automatic system, it tries its best to direct it.

    Then there's this idea of shaping the path that people go down. This idea has shown up in a lot of books on persuasive design, on psychology, on behavior change, on how to hook people, all these types of things. How do we create the path that influences the behavior we would like to see?

    Here's another model I came across recently that I've actually enjoyed. It's not a path, but it's the persuasion slide. I actually think it's really good way to approach this kind of work — to talk about, what's the nudge to get people started down the slide?

    Have you removed all the friction, all the gravel in the slide? What's the slope of the slide, the conscious and unconscious motivators? And what's the gravity — the customer's initial motivation?

    Lots of examples of paths in the persuasive design world.

    Candy Crush is obviously a literal path where you level up and go do more and ever-increasing challenges. In fact, paths are common to probably most video games that we've grown up playing for the last several decades. If you look at all of these games from Pac-Man to Portal to Myst, there's a leveling up involved with most of these — ever-increasing challenges.

    We see this in the real world, as well, with things like scouting programs, where you earn badges and you increase in rank. Paths are very common in well-designed experiences, like checking into a hotel. They want to describe the customer experience and the path you go through. Schools work on designing paths that funnel kids through from K through 12 and exit them with the program.

    You level up in businesses. There's all sorts of paths in the regular workforce in everyday environments. Paths are designed to lead people along for better or for worse. I want to share a few examples here. This first one's rather neutral. This is the path-tracker experiment that was done I think seven, eight years ago.

    Basically, they just put RFID tags in a grocery store and they monitored the paths that the carts went down. The RFID tags were in the carts. They were able to get a map of all the places that shoppers went frequently, infrequently. Then, they could make decisions or make changes based on that data. Fairly neutral. It's just good information to act on, good data.

    If you look at Las Vegas, that is a really, really well-designed path. They've attended to every detail for one purpose — to separate you from your money. You walk in and even the doors to get in are huge, but the doors to get out are often very narrow and you often have to get in a line to get out. Every experience in a Las Vegas casino has been designed for one specific purpose.

    But let's flip to Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World — I went there with my family last September. It's also a bunch of really well-designed paths. They've attended to absolutely every detail. Like Las Vegas, there's a transaction. I'm paying money for hopefully a good/great family experience, and they want to design every detail they can to ensure that I have a great experience.

    That's what I mean that paths aren't necessarily good or bad. It's just attention to detail in controlling or directing the outcomes or the experience that people have. Paths are obviously prevalent in our work, as well. We have things like customer journey maps, service blueprint scenarios. We have all these paths where we map out the experience that people are going to have.

    Amy Jo Kim talks about the player journey, from newbie to regular to enthusiast. Dan Lockton talks about influencing behavior in "Design with Intent," and he has three paths he talks about.

    Even in my own workshops on Seductive Interaction Design, I talk about ways to nudge people towards completion, ways to assist people in developing new skills, and ways to assist in establishing or putting an end to new habits.

    These would all fit under this description or definition of paths. Paths aren't necessarily bad, but I did want to pull out two quotes, two sentiments. This is a reaction and a backlash to some of this persuasive design that I've seen coming out over the last year.

    The first is Quora, which is a site I actually like quite a bit. They've got a really designed system for asking and getting questions answered. They send out a customer survey just to say, "How do you like Quora?" This is the email response that one person posted publicly. I wanted to read a couple of his responses so you can get an idea of the sentiment against paths.

    He says, first, "I hate how gamified the system is. I hate how it's obvious that the people running it do not have any compunctions about manipulating human psychology to eke out engagement and growth. I think Quora epitomizes what's wrong with Silicon Valley start-ups — A/B testing everything to the point that you lose your humanity."

    Then he goes on to say, "Where would I like to see improvement? I'd like you to start treating your users with an ounce of respect. I'd like you to start treating me like a human being, not an f'ing statistic."

    This is from Kathy Sierra. She talks frequently on these same issues and she talks about engagement. She says, "If we really cared about our users, we would not use any behavioral tricks, nudges, to suck them into spending more time on our site."

    "If we really cared about our users, we would try to help them spend less time engaging with our site. If we really cared about our users, we'd take all the persuasive manipulative tricks — intermittent variable rewards, et cetera — and do the opposite."

    She actually points to some companies whose goal is to get people to spend less time onsite. That's their internal metric.

    Just to give you some general comments about paths, and this'll make a lot more sense when I contrast them with sandboxes. Paths obviously shape behavior. They're games to be played, and people often, when they're put in a path, will play or hack the game. Paths lead people along.

    They have predictable outcomes, so people have designed the path and they know where it's going to lead people, and they plan for the scenarios. They're measurable. They design every detail. They're consumptive, meaning people are consuming something along the way. They create dependency, often, on directions or the boundaries of the path.

    They have a clearly defined purpose. They lead to completion, ultimately. They're best for instruction, and ultimately, they end in an exchange of some sort. I'll comment a little bit more on this when I put up the contrasts for sandboxes.

    Is there something more? Well, obviously, I think there is, or else I wouldn't be up here. Let's talk about sandboxes for a moment here.

    Before I talk about sandboxes, I'd like to run you through the question I asked myself about a year ago. This talk started a little over a year ago, when I was doing a workshop about psychology and persuasive nudges, and these things. Just at random, I said, "Let me pick three sites that are maddeningly addictive, three experiences that people just spend tons of time on."

    The three I picked are random. There are others to choose from, but I picked Pinterest, picked Minecraft, and I picked Twitter. I said, "Let me deconstruct what mechanisms, what things they're using to make these sites, these experiences, so maddeningly addictive."

    Before I tell you what I found, I'm going to give you a chance to answer this question yourself. Pick one of these online experiences. Hopefully, you've had experience with one of these three services. Pick one. I want you to list why you think people find them addictive. List as many reasons as you can. You will have 90 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.


    Stephen: Time is up. If we were in the workshop, what would happen next is we would share and talk about those things you just wrote down.

    This is what I did a year ago, but personally, in the process of identifying these things — and I came up with a bunch of things, like site completion, sequencing, status, self-expression. Maybe you didn't know the word for it, but you wrote down something that approximates some of these principles.

    In the process of deconstructing and listing these things out, there was something deeper and more fundamental about those three examples I picked that I just couldn't let go of, that I was chewing on. I started looking at, what do all these experiences have in common? There's something below the leaves. There's a substrate there beneath all these superficial things, if you will, on the top.

    There were two observations I made, two pretty fundamental observations about these three examples I had picked. One, these are platforms. You make of them what you want. There is no prescribed way to use the system. Number one, these are platforms. Because they're platforms, they create what I call the WTF problem. It's not what you think. This is the "what's this for?" problem.

    If anyone was on Twitter in the early days, you may have scratched your head and said, "What's this for? Why do I use it? How do I use it?" That was a big or has been a big problem with Twitter, that initial engagement.

    I experienced the same thing with Pinterest the first time I used Pinterest. I added a few pins and boards, but then really, moved on to other stuff, and didn't come back to it until about a-year-and-a-half later, when my wife was using Pinterest to pin some ideas for how we could remodel our bedroom.

    I said, "Wow, I could use that to pin ideas for how to decorate my office, or I could use this as a visual bookmarking system for a lot of the Internet of Things and embedded technology stuff I'm following," but it wasn't until I saw someone else doing it that I had this idea about how to use it.

    Same thing with Minecraft. A lot of people land in it and they're like, "What's the point? What's the challenge? What's the game?" Then they watch others and they say, "Oh, that sounds like fun. I'm going to try that," or "Oh, let's play in this."

    That leads to the second observation. These are social spaces — or social places, as Andrea Resmini would correct me. People learn from each other how to use the system. Many of the psychological nudges that follow stem from observing others.

    I mentioned a few of these. Minecraft uses this idea of positive mimicry. Actually, all of these, the idea here is positive mimicry. We learn what we should do in a system by watching others and their behaviors.

    I watch my boys, particularly my oldest boys, build and construct these amazing things in Minecraft. I'm like, "How did you do that?" Then I ask them and they show me. They're learning on their own. They're also going outside of Minecraft to YouTube and watching YouTube videos, watching other players play Minecraft, to learn what they can do.

    The hash tag in Twitter was largely an emergent element. People started using it, it shows up, and other people use it, it catches on. It wasn't prescribed or built into the system. It was an emergent property.

    Again, I mentioned with Pinterest, I saw my wife pinning it, and that's what brought me back to this tool I had signed up for earlier.

    Sandbox. I'm using this phrase. This actually comes from the game world, and the definition of a sandbox game is this. It's a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a path, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks.

    Here's what I like. Sandboxes create open spaces for self-directed play and creativity. This is something I love — when you create a space for play and creativity and you can be surprised and delighted by what people do. People can do things you never imagined possible.

    We're seeing this. Here's another example online. We're seeing this with GitHub. GitHub is kind of a sandbox. We're seeing a lot of writers say, "Wow, we could use GitHub," which started off as a tool for devs, to check in and out code, and they're saying, "Why don't we use GitHub for writers to check in and out versions or drafts of our writing?"

    You see sandboxes with things like LEGOs. When kids have this bin of LEGO bricks, they can build anything. It's a sandbox environment within which to play. You have these amazing things that there weren't instructions for, people just came up with them. These are all built out of LEGOs. Yes, I have a Pinterest board of all these Lego creations that I find fascinating.

    As a parent, I started thinking about this paths versus sandboxes thing, and I'm going to make an assumption here. At some point, if you're a parent, you probably created these bins or these boxes to help organize your children's toys.

    Here, you have dolls, and what is that? [inaudible 0:18:25] and music stuff. Right, some sort of bin to organize in structure, and I'm willing to bet particularly at an IA conference a lot more of us have done, OK. [laughter]

    We've done this because it's the only way to keep sanity in the house when you have young children. I was watching Toy Story for the umfteenth time, I was like "Wow, I love how Andy just plays with all the toys and mixes them and just makes up these creative worlds, and does this really imaginative play. I wish my boys did that."

    Then I said, "Well, wait a second. I'm forcing them to pull one out, play with it, and put it back before they get another one out," right?

    I'm trying to teach them some structure and discipline, and in doing so I wasn't encouraging them to do that kind of open collaborative play and to mix everything and mash all the toys together.

    Paths and sandbox show up in these subtle areas of parenting. Continuing on this theme, and again, because this is the IA summit, you can't have a talk without referencing Christopher Alexander of pattern language.

    One of the patterns he talks about is the adventure playground and he describes it like this, he says, "A castle made of carton, rocks, old branches by a group of children for themselves is worth a 1,000 perfectly detailed exactly finished castles made for them in a factory."

    His recommended solution, he says, "Set up a playground for the children in each neighborhood, not a highly finished playground with asphalt and swings, but a place with raw materials of all kinds, nets, boxes, barrels, trees, rope, simple tools, frames, grass, and water where children can create and recreate playgrounds of their own."

    This is the perfect example of a sandbox. Now, this sounds all great, and I want you to look closely at the picture. Some of you may have already seen this. Here's a young kid in the single digits and he's got a saw. [laughter]

    There's no supervision there. There's a part of me that's terrified by that, right? I'm sure many of us as parents are kind of like "This sounds good, but that's scary," right? "It's really scary." I read this quote and I think this is actually scarier.

    I agree with this next quote. "I'm convinced that standardized playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way. When the distance between all the wrongs in a climbing net or ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardization is dangerous, because play becomes simplified."

    It's like "Ah, that's a new way to reframe and look at this." In contrast to paths, let me run through some of the characteristics of sandboxes. Where paths shape behavior, sandboxes create engagement.

    Where paths are games to be played, sandboxes are spaces in which two play. Very different. Subtle, but very different. Paths lead people along, sandboxes let people explore. "Paths have predictable outcomes, sandboxes have unknown outcomes.

    Again, not necessarily recommending one or the other. You know, you're going to have to think about what's perfect or what's right for your situation. Paths are measurable, sandboxes are observable.

    Paths design every detail, where sandboxes underspecify the design. Paths are consumptive, sandboxes are generative. People create things in sandboxes. Paths create dependency on directions. Paths encourage autonomy, ownership, independence. People find their own ways to do things.

    Paths clearly find purpose. In sandboxes, the purpose is self-determined. Paths lead to completion, sandboxes lead to understanding. Paths are best for instruction, sandboxes are best for performance. Finally, I would say, whereas paths end in an exchange, sandboxes end in learning and discovering. That leads me to the next section I want to talk about.

    This was another lens and another catalyst on this change in my thinking. I work a lot in the ed tech space and I've been a huge fan of the Maria Montessori method of education for many years. I went through a Montessori program through sixth grade, but it wasn't until the last five or six years I really started to appreciate what my parents did for me, putting me in a Montessori program.

    I want to read to a you a couple of quotes from the Montessori method that Maria Montessori wrote well over a 100 years ago. I was finally getting around to reading this and trying to understand the Montessori method and what it means, and I came across these quotes, these two that I'm going to share with you. This really just nudged my thinking along.

    By the way, this quote right here sums up my views on gamification, if you are wondering about that. "The jockey offers a piece of sugar to his horse before jumping into the saddle. The coachman beats his horse that he may respond to the signs given by the reins, and yet, neither of these runs so superbly as the free horse of the plains."

    Now, some people would say, "If you just let horses run free on the plains, they won't ever actually do anything," and Maria Montessori doesn't say that. She goes on to say, "We have prepared the environment and the material."

    She's very specific. This is a design project. She designs the classroom and she designs the materials where the objects are placed in the environment to encourage kids to want to learn, to discover, to teach, and learn on their own terms.

    It's very much a designed environment. It's not just backing off and saying, "Go play. Do everything on your own." She has designed the environment.

    Montessori, if you're wondering what some of the key characteristics are, lots of use of manipulatives. I remember the counting beads. I remember learning letters by tracing sandpaper. I remember cutting the cheese slices, cutting them in half and then half again. I had no idea that I was learning fractions. That's what they were teaching me.

    There's mixed age classrooms, there was a K-3 class and then a 4-6 class. They have these specialized education materials. This is heavy emphasis on manipulatives.

    Student choice, students can choose the activity from within a prescribed range of options. There's objects placed in the environment that students can choose of their own, volition. There's uninterrupted blocks of work time, and this is in stark contrast to most public schools, where you have the bell rings and you close up your work and you go onto the next class.

    In the Montessori method, if they see a kid who's engaged in learning, creating, and crafting stuff, they let that kid do that. They'll let them do that for hours, days, weeks on end to pursue a project and pursue an interest, because there's something more important than the content of the learning. They're teaching people how to be curious life long learners.

    Also, they have a constructivist or discovery model where students learn concepts from working with materials rather than by direct instructions, hands-on maker based learning. I think this has shaped kind of something I strongly believe in my philosophy on everything I do, playing is learning. Now, you can even say the opposite, learning is playing. If you approach the world like this like the world is a game.

    It's a play space, it's fun. You get thrown something that you don't enjoy and you reframe it and say, "There's something enjoyable here. What am I going to learn? How am I going to be challenged?"

    You look at some noted entrepreneurs and people who we've probably heard of, this is Will Wright, who created SimCity and Spore. He went to Montessori. He says, "Montessori taught me the joy of discovery. It's all about learning on your terms rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori.

    Founders of Google, Larry Paige and Sergey. "Friend, we both went to Montessori School and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the word, doing things a little bit differently.

    Sandbox education teaches you to play at life." I love this model. I think this sums up this whole point very accurately. I'll just let you look at this. This is a sandbox mentality, someone who writes their own rules to the game and says, "I'm going to play life on my own terms."

    Right, and you see this coming up in a lot of books published in the past year or two, especially those related to education, talk about creating innovators. They talk about "I tell them I built this," design, make, play, invent to learn, so this making as a way of learning and making, playing, and learning is a theme that's growing within a lot of education circles.

    This goes back to some fundamental psychology. Edward Deci says, "Human beings have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn."

    If I was to some up paths and sandboxes in the context of education, I would say, paths equate to formal institutional learning, what many of us have gone through or went through in public schools.

    Sandboxes equate to informal, non-institutional learning. If you want to go back to the Greeks, you could say, "Paths view students as vessels to be filled. Sandboxes view students as fires to be kindled."

    Paths specify performance goals, we expect you to get an A in French. Sandboxes lead to learning challenges. Learning to speak French is the challenge, not the A.

    Now, if you're following along, particularly this, you're probably starting to think, "Wait a second, is it that black and white? Are they that dispirit?" No, this is a false dichotomy. You need a mix of both at various times, but I think too often I see things that are designed as paths and not as sandboxes or with no sandbox elements. When I say, "Combined," here's an example.

    What about a giant sandbox with just in time learning? Really short paths, I'm in the sandbox playing, but I need to learn how to do this skill to continue making or creating. That's just in time learning, very short paths.

    In my research on this, I actually came across several articles that did just this. There was one research study designed to teach girls in junior high how to program Java. Now, of all languages to start with I don't know why they pick Java.

    They've got a pretty big hurdle, but what they did, they created an environment, a sandbox environment where kids were actually thrilled and excited to learn this programming language.

    They set it up in a way where you have this fantasy world and this challenge…I'll just read it here. "Normally, learning in code spells is encouraged by ways of a series of quests that must be completed with the use of Java based spell crafting.

    In our version, the players could walk up to in game gnome like characters who would give various spells to the player, along with simple explanations. Our hope was that these spells would serve as starting points for code exploration."

    This is the giant sandbox with just in time learning paths. You could also look at Lego bricks, which I mentioned earlier as a sandbox. Actually, when you first buy that set and it has the instructions, those instructions are a path, and as you build that thing that you bought in the picture on the cover it's teaching you the skills you need to then go and create whatever you want.

    The path is scaffolding to get you to a place where you can play in the sandbox and you can do whatever you want.

    Philosophically, you're probably with me and you're like "OK, this is good, this is really interesting." You may be thinking about your work. You might be asking, "OK, but how is this useful?

    I've got to go back to work tomorrow or Tuesday. Are there some practical tips that I can take from this?"

    I did say this has reframed and changed my work, and everything I do. I have a perspective on the work I do that literally translates into features and discussions, and I'd like to share a bit of that, some of the lessons.

    This is all emergent. I'm learning along the way, but these are seven or eight things that I've applied coming out of this mentality. The first credit to Carzell Frank for this, I've learned to underspecify features.

    This is going to be a hard one for a lot of us who work in lean and agile environments to swallow. Before I explain why, I want to show an example. The starring functionality of Twitter, when it came out there was no prescribed use case or use story.

    It was just you could star stuff, and because you could do anything with a star, it wasn't prescribed what it was, people have used in easily fix, six, maybe eight different ways. I use starring as a form of bookmarking.

    Other people use starring as a form of liking, to say, "I like that," right? You might use starring as a way to sync up with a program like IF to do some scripting and collect stuff. There's different ways you can use the starring functionality.

    Imagine if we were writing the use case for this before starring was added. As a user, I want to flag interesting tweets for reviewing later. As a user, I want to give kudos to people for sharing something interesting.

    As a user, I want to save positive tweets for later use as testimonials in my company. If you had specified use case, as one of these things, you probably would design it a bit differently, where it was very specific for that.

    By under specifying that, people have been able to use this feature in whatever way they want. The product I'm working on right now, we had a date picker. We're going to put a date picker in that for time, another reasons we say, "Let's not worry about the date picker.

    Let's just put an empty string in and suggest that you put a date in like specified time." We did that and right away within the day, we saw people typing on things like instead of a date, they make this goal on hold. Make this one active. We saw them using that empty string on ways we never anticipated. Now, as a company, as a design group, we saw different things we never anticipated by under specifying the feature.

    Avoid long workflows. Paths to find but one thing I've learned is to use short paths, not really long paths. Confession time, I worked on a project a few years ago where I felt so good about this stuff. All the psychology, this is think surely after my book is published.

    I was working on this app where I was in meetings and making promises and all those stuff. I was so proud because we mapped out every possible action the user would take. The idea was must provide the scaffolding to help them do the right things.

    This is just one moment or one state from the entire apps. If I zoom out, this is the entire blueprint. We had everything mapped out. I felt like a tutor in adventure novel like you knew exactly what users would do. When I project, what happened? People didn't mapped everything we had set out. We didn't anticipate everything. People were frustrated like people called this. "Why are you constraining me like this?"

    We forgot the very fundamental principle which is keep users in control. Practical take the ways, build and consume your own APIs. How we're building things now? Instead of one model of stock, we're building things in a service oriented way.

    There's ways to create stand boxes of different levels. The interface, allowing people to choose what features they tag off run. At the API level, allowing people to build on top of their API, extend what they're doing.

    Maybe in the case of Minecraft, there are a lot of people that add modes to what you're doing. You could just open the source code base and see what people do with it. See what other versions of your system people build.

    There's all different ways to open up from a technical perspective and the feature perspective your system and make it more of a sand box. Back up, let people make mistakes and learn through trial and error.

    Another project I worked on, we work closely with several charter schools. We design something that map closely to their workflow. That should have been a signal there that word workflow.

    What we had to do two years later, as we scale across the State and worked with more schools, as we have to come back and say, "You know what, that workflow that we built our system are based our system on. It's restrictive and doesn't scale to these other schools." When we made a major overhaul last summer, these are some of the themes. I've highlighted some of the diverse sandbox related.

    Last click, shared views, simple scheduling, open and flexible, only one done button, for we have done multiple buttons for each stage or each gate. Sequence is suggested and never required.

    We were opening up and making this more of the sandbox so it's scale across the US to different schools who have different systems and different workflows. Personal favorite, this influences a lot of decisions and making direct manipulation is best.

    AKA, no more wizards. This is why I don't blog very often. Right here, this is the other that I have to use on a current system. There is so much friction to this and frustration that I only blog two or three times a year.

    You probably are all gone through this. Retype it up and you hit that preview. You go to the preview version. You see a typo and you go back and you make it. You go back, you go back and forth between these two modes like the writing mode and the preview mode.

    Let me show you one of my favorite writing editors. This is medium. Medium, you are directly manipulating the object. The text fields were there. As you write, you're actually seeing exactly how it will look.

    It's a hard to do. Like, there's some batches when you get to build things in this way. There are companies who are really doing this successfully. Mediums one, square space as another to look at. You are building what the world will see.

    You're seeing it directly. There's not that gap. That will probably take away. Help people understand through playful interactions. This was a big theme of the workshop that Carl Fast gave on Wednesday.

    It's going to be a big thing on the next book I am working on with version file media. It's about how we learn or how we understand and make sense of the world interactions. It's the big part of that. Here's an example of a [inaudible 0:35:22] .

    This is what Victor talks about. He says that most editors are like playing the piano. When you hit that note, you can't actually hear the note until two minutes later. Like, imagine on trying to learn piano, everything was delayed like two minutes.

    What he's talking about here is real time feedback loop on code. In the moment, even with slight years, you can play and see the cause and effect relationship between the code and the outlet.

    You have certain up these moments like that one where things go crazy that you never expected. Imagine if you were changing that number by number and hitting save and refreshing and looking. In a minute, you might have gone through three or four iterations.

    You just saw hundreds in that same amount of time just by having a slide on these numbers. You could see the effect of what you're doing. Highly recommend this by the way. This video from Brat Victor. These well against slide blinks at the bottom will be there as well. Another example, again I started work with a lot of EdTech companies that work in a lot of schools. I see a lot of online learning programs.

    This one, ST Math's, stands head and shoulders above all of the ones I've seen. Just a little background before I'll play your clip of the founder of this EdTech. The founder actually struggled with Math as a child because he had dyslexia.

    He realized later on in life that words and language are so intertwined with Math concepts that it's actually getting in the way with him just being a good Math student. He wanted to create a Math program that does not rely on words. He went on to get his cognate in neuroscience and he found in this company.

    They created this program that's absolutely amazing. Just play a clip here and let him come on this system.

    Video Character: Here's some exponents and some captions. We're basically able to buy all Math down to how do you help a little penguin across the street?


    Stephen: Later on the presentation, he said this quote which I agree with a 100 percent. It's everything that I'm writing that I'm interested about it right now.

    He says, "The approach to teaching without words that I'm proposing makes heavy use of interactivity and instant informative feedback." How do those examples on that I'm going to read it again. I did want to come and sum up with a couple of key points.

    The big take away, I'm going to quote Cathy Sierra again. These are her words, "Will this help users take us? Will this help our users?"

    There's another observation, another practical take away if you're looking for a framework or something to put this together, because I was just six or seven random ideas. Remember the monastery quote where I said, we have prepared the environment and the materials.

    If you start looking at a lot of game, design books, and I'm talking books from the game world. You'll find this theme. There's the environment, there are objects in the environment and there are rules. The language may be different, but these are the patterns you start to see. This is from a presentation Dave Gray gave. He was talking about the game world. He says there are rules. There are boundaries.

    There are artifacts. There are players in the goal. Like, its different words, but the same fundamental concept. What I love about this is he wasn't necessarily talking about games. He was talking about how to approach every day work with the game mind set.

    He said this. "The idea for knowledge games acme from watching people of the cutting edges of new disciplines. People who are entrepreneurs, people who are creators, designers and innovators, watching them work, watching them play."

    I love this part. "Sometimes, having difficulty telling the difference." It's beautiful. I love that. That means it's final closing thought I will make. That's the idea of playing it life. I've talked about past. I've talked about sandboxes.

    I illustrated more on education and talked about some practical ways. I want to step back and talk about how this guy is reframing how I approach life or how I do things. How do you approach life?

    Do you approach life like a path to follow or like a sandboxes on which to play? I want to come back to this diagram. The person who did this clearly approaches life like a game to play on their own rules, on their own terms.

    I was watching a video, a documentary and that's a group behind the special effects from movies like, "The Lord of the Rings". They talk about their early days from a few people and building and growing.

    One of the quotes that stuck with me was this. "What we learn from that project then allowed us to, and then, I talked like going on to the next project." Every project was a series of learning things. You see this in companies that way.

    You see this in companies like Pixar, where they're exploring the boundaries of the technology they're playing and seeing what they can do next. There's a great story. There's a great craft there. Also, exploring technology things.

    What can we do now that we haven't done before? What seem to be created that we could not have done it a year ago? What do we know now that we didn't know before? Does this enable us to do something new and different?

    It's just constant learning, playing as learning. John Piaget, one of my favorite people. "Play is answered how anything new comes about." To it, personal examples of my life. Going back over a decade ago, when I was doing primarily graphic design and marketing type things, one of the clients that we got was a company that does this. They make these things.

    These are called durable products labels. The bar codes on the back of your VCR are you TiVo whatever. That's what they make. Now, many graphic designers and many people working in marketing would be like, "Oh, gosh. Seriously like this is the best we have.

    I'd much rather work on a Pepsi campaign or something like that." In retrospect, this is probably one of the most exciting projects that going in the best plans I ever worked for. We looked at that. We started doing user research.

    One of the things that came up, other user research was, that was a small and significant thing. You know what, if we forget about it, it's going to delay everything. We're not going to be able to ship our product on time.

    That little gem, that little thing like this whole campaign where we will do things like this is the postcard for example. I would say it's just the label. We played up this idea. It's just the label. You'll know this there's actually labels to occur in.

    Curiosity was used to get the person appeal it off. If you peel it off, you are in reflect peeling off the wings that says in without it. Your product won't much. This whole idea, we took across media and across many things.

    It was a fun project to work on. Who would ever thought that? The company that makes durable bar codes, durable labels. With my book proposal, I was handed the normal word template to answer these 20 questions, those types of things.

    I just felt confined by that. I didn't feel like I could tell the story of the book I want to write in that format. I knew publishers are looking for people to answer these specific questions. I had to answer that.

    Those are rules that I couldn't fudge around. The presentation, I didn't have to fill in the word document and fill an online form. The proposal I came back with was actually a two-dozen slide presentation. This is viewed on all the slides.

    This is my book proposal. This is my book pitch. I can say Louise are excited. He actually made the comment. He said, "Wow, in this enthusiasm and this energy that you put into proposal. We're going to see it translating the book.

    That's the book right itself." He was very enthusiastic and brace less, love this. Again, I was playing in some ways on my own terms. I knew what he needed but I want to do things on my way, as well. Put my own signature on it.

    Good Tom Robins quote to start wrapping things up. "Humanity has advanced. When it has advanced, not so it has been responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, an immature."

    The question I'd like to end with, two questions, are you designing paths for sandboxes in your every day work? For you, personally, are you following a path where you are playing in the sandbox? Thank you very much.


    —Huffduffed by tlafleur

  4. John U. Bacon: Old MacDonald Went To College : NPR

    A sportswriter and a former Michigan Wolverines football player imagine the college days of a nursery rhyme farmer in this quiz about animal mascots and the noises they make.

    —Huffduffed by tlafleur

  5. IA Summit 10 – Richard Saul Wurman Keynote « Boxes and Arrows

    With the majority of the earth’s population now living in cities, Richard Saul Wurman realized there was a yawning information gap about the urban super centers that are increasingly driving modern culture. In this keynote presentation from the 2010 IA Summit, Mr. Wurman discusses his 19.20.21 initiative: an attempt to standardize a methodology to understand comparative data on 19 cities that will have 20 million or more inhabitants in the 21st century. He encourages the design community to take initiative and solve big problems rather than make small changes incrementally.

    —Huffduffed by tlafleur

  6. Episode 003: Valiantly Defending Jobs | Exponent

    This episode is all about the (alleged) Apple Beats acquisition. While it may make a certain amount of business sense, does it signify a small but significant change in Apple’s priorities, and is it a cause for concern? Topics covered include:

    The rationale for the acquisition

    The difference between making and recognizing market opportunities

    What makes Apple uniquely capable of building revolutionary products

    Apple’s previous responses when threatened in music

    How to think about mergers and acquisitions

    How to best motivate employees


    Why Apple is Buying Beats – Ben Thompson

    The New M&A Playbook – Clayton Christensen

    One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? – Frederick Herzberg

    Podcast: Play in new window

    | Download

    —Huffduffed by tlafleur

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